Friday, October 26, 2012

First Chapter Preview: I Hope You Die Soon by Richard Sylvester

Word on Non-Duality
Richard Sylvester

The most common misconception about liberation is that it is something an individual can gain. But liberation is a loss—the loss of the sense that there ever was a separate individual who could choose to do something to bring about liberation.
When it is seen that there is no separation, the sense of vulnerability and fear that attaches to the individual falls away and what is left is the wonder of life just happening. Instead of meaning there is a squirrel motionless on a grey tree trunk, legs splayed, head up, looking straight at you. Instead of purpose there is the astonishing texture of cat’s fur or the incredible way an ant crawls over a twig. The loss of hope is no loss when it is replaced by the moorhens bobbing on the lake.
When the sensation that I am in control of my life and must make it happen ends, then life is simply lived and relaxation takes place. There is a sense of ease with whatever is the case and an end to grasping for what might be.
Liberation cannot be described in words. It cannot be understood by the mind. It cannot be seen until it reveals itself. Then no words or ideas are able to express it and no mind is able to grasp it.
Yet liberation is all there is. Right now.
The seeing of liberation has nothing to do with the mind.Yet here liberation is, covered over by the mind. Covered over by the mind which does not exist.
Liberation is the end of searching and the end of meaning. Liberation reveals the meaning of life as life itself.There can be no searching for that which is seen already to be the case.
Language by its nature describes duality—events, experiences, things, thoughts, feelings. Phenomena. The stuff that happens. There is no language to describe non-duality.The best we can do is to hint at it.
So let us hint.
Awakening: Seeing there is No One
It begins with Saturday afternoons in Hampstead, listening to discussions about non-duality held by Tony Parsons. I do not understand a lot of what is said but something keeps drawing me there. And I like the jokes and the conversation and the drink­ing afterwards so I go back again and again.
Then at a central London station on a warm summer evening the person, the sense of self, sud­denly completely disappears. Everything remains as it is—people, trains, platforms, other objects—yet everything is seen for the rst time without a person mediating or interpreting it. There are no ashing lights, no reworks, none of the whirligig phenom­ena of LSD or hallucinogenic mushrooms. But this is the real ‘wow’, seeing an ordinary railway station for the rst time without any sense of self. Here is the ordinary seen as the extraordinary, arising in oneness with no one experiencing it.
In that instant it is seen that there is no one.The sense of there being a person has been a constant up to this point and given meaning to this life. For so many years it has never been questioned. It has been so thoroughly taken for granted as me, my centre and location, that it has not even been noticed. Now it is seen as a complete redundancy. Suddenly it is known that I never had a life because there never was an ‘I’. In a split second of eternity it is known that without an ‘I’ everything is being seen for the rst time simply as it is. I do not live, I am lived. I do not act, but actions happen through me, the divine puppet.
Every concern of this small but so important apparent life falls away in an instant.
Within a second, the self returns saying “What the hell was that?” But that split-second of no one brings about irrevocable changes to the internal landscape. For seeing this can blow your mind.
The past becomes two-dimensional. Before this, the past was a three dimensional landscape which I visited frequently. I rushed about in it, jump­ing from place to place; every scene had energy and reality to it. That energy appeared as feelings and thoughts, mostly about regret and guilt, with themes of “What if…” and “If only…” endlessly playing. The past was consequently tilled and re-tilled, different possibilities uselessly played out as if obsessive revisiting could somehow change the geography, bring back a lost lover or erase some offence given or received. Now, after that split sec­ond of no one, although the person has come back, the past is like a at painting. All the scenes are still there—this is not Alzheimer’s—but they have no energy, no reality, and there is little impulse to visit any of them anymore. Occasionally one scene or another from the past ickers into life for a while but then it dies away again. Regret and guilt loosen their grip.
Issues and problems still arise but they cannot hang around for as long as they used to do. The rock face which gave toe holds for them to clamber up and grab me by the throat is starting to crumble. The internal landscape has become slippery. As Nisargadatta says, the world is full of hoops, the hooks are all ours. Now the hooks are dissolving. However, during the next year the self frantically tries to reassert itself, sometimes apparently very successfully as issues manage to re-emerge, as boredom, despair, emotional pain somehow still have to be experienced.
One thing that is immediately seen is the nature of all the apparent spiritual experiences that arose during the years of searching and following false paths and gurus. Suddenly they are seen for what they really are, emotional and psychological experi­ences happening to an unreal person and no more signicant than putting on a shoe or having a cup of coffee.
Spiritual experiences are not difcult to evoke. Meditate intensively, chant for long periods, take certain drugs, go without food or sleep, put yourself in extreme situations.That will probably do it. I had done all of these things and there had been many spiritual experiences. I had chanted for hours and meditated to the beating of mighty Tibetan gongs. I had seen the guru, sitting on a dais in impressive robes, dissolve into golden light before my eyes. Personal identity had rened and dissolved in tran­scendental bliss. The universe had breathed me as my awareness expanded to ll everything.
So what?
There had always been someone there, having the spiritual experience. A person, no matter how rened, had always been present.These events had all happened to ‘me’. None of them had anything more or less to do with liberation than stroking a cat.
And anyway “You can’t stay in God’s world for very long. There are no restaurants or toilets there.”
Liberation is not personal and has nothing to do with any psychological, emotional or ‘spiritual’ experience, no matter how rened it may be. A spiritual or psychological experience is just a per­sonal experience. Once it is seen that I am nothing, it is also seen that any experience arises only for an
 apparent person and falls away again in oneness with no signicance at all. There is no real person in whom the experience arises and no possibility that it could have any meaning.
And liberation has nothing to do with the absence or presence of problems or issues, which may or may not continue to arise.
Liberation does not bring unending bliss. For that, try heroin, prozac or a lobotomy.
What a relief. Liberation does not require you to be any particular way.
Liberation does not require ‘you’ to be at all. A person is not writing these words. Oneness is writ­ing these words. And oneness is reading them.
Within the story, the period of awakening lasts for one year. During this time, the person reasserts itself, sometimes strongly, drops away again and returns. For a while there is a desert where per­sonal pain is as intense as before but all the old comforts and mechanisms for dealing with it have lost their meaning. A particular comfort had been the belief that pain was meaningful, necessary to my spiritual evolution. “There’s no gain without pain.” Now that thought simply appears ridiculous. I am beginning to understand that this awakening is ruthless, stripping away every belief that I have ever held and ever clung to. Now there are no life rafts left, not even a piece of driftwood.
It is sometimes said that this ruins your life.Well, it ruins what you thought was your life. And there is a saying I remember at this point. “Why do you want liberation? How do you know you’d like it?”
My God.Things have got worse, not better. For previously there was hope.
Liberation: Seeing ‘I’ am Everything
Within the story, a year after awakening, I am standing in a shop in an ordinary country town. Suddenly but with great gentleness the ordinary is displaced by the extraordinary. The person again disappears completely and now it is seen clearly that awareness is everywhere and everything. The localised sense of self is revealed to be just an appearance. There is no location, no here or there. There is only oneness appearing as everything and this is what ‘I’ really am. ‘I’ am the shop, the people, the counter, the walls and the space in which everything appears. When the self disap­pears, and awareness is seen as everything, then this is seen for what it is, a wonderful hologram sustained by love.
At a certain time as a child, awareness appears to coagulate into a discrete space, becoming solid and separate from everything else. This is what creates the sense of ‘me’ with its hopes and fears and loves and burdensome responsibilities.The thoughts and feelings and sensory phenomena, which really sim­ply arise in awareness, are now owned by someone, are now felt to belong to ‘me’. And so the drama of being a person starts.
There is no locality to awareness other than ‘everywhere’. There is only liberation. But in lib­eration the sense that ‘I’ am not liberated can and does arise. It manifests as the sense of separation, of being located over here rather than over there, separate from all other people and things. It brings fear, longing and hope, and it is highly addictive. It cannot see through itself and it may simply continue for seventy or eighty years until it ends at death. Or it may end sooner, anywhere, at any time.
Liberation is freedom from the burden of being a person who apparently has to make choices and decisions; choices and decisions which have con­sequences. What a wonderful relief it is to see that there is no choice, no person, no separation. Noth­ing you have ever done has ever led to anything because you have never done anything. No one has ever done anything although it appears that things have been done.
Isn’t it wonderful that you have never made a choice in your life? There is nothing to regret,noth­ing to feel guilty about. Nothing could ever have been any different, nothing could ever have been any other way. Isn’t that a relief? Nothing matters. There is nowhere to go. There is nothing that has to be done. There is no meaning and no morality. There is no help and no hope. You can let it all go, you can release all the tension. You can begin to enjoy the wonder of hopelessness and the gift of meaninglessness. You can begin to enjoy your complete helplessness.
In liberation it is seen that nothing has any meaning, it is simply what it is. The story does not stop. The story continues but now it is seen that it is just a story. All the passions of your apparent life are just stuff happening. The conicts, the loves, the struggles for control and power, the victories and defeats are simply phenomena arising in one­ness and falling away again with no meaning at all.
Nothing has any more signicance than anything else or could ever be greater or lesser. The Trojan war and a glass of beer are equal.
Except, of course, to the mind.
You cannot earn liberation. I have not earned liberation. No one will ever earn liberation. You cannot become good enough or work hard enough or be sincere enough to deserve it. Liberation has not happened to me and it will not happen to you. Yet there is liberation. There is only ever libera­tion. Perfection is already here. What you are is already divine.
Searching will not get you anywhere, but there is nothing wrong with searching. In this apparent process it may be heard that searching is meaning­less but searching cannot be given up until it stops. Then it is over and it is seen that what you were searching for has always been with you, in fact it has always been what you are. But to suggest that you give up searching in order to nd is pointless. It does not matter whether you get drunk, meditate, read the paper, sit with the guru or go to the races. None of these will make liberation any more or any less likely. Searching or not searching, meditating or not meditating, misses the point. For there is no one who can choose to do any of these things. If meditation happens, it happens and it will go on happening until it does not. It is the same for get­ting drunk.You may as well give up the belief that you can choose anything.
Except that you cannot do that either.
Until it happens.
Liberation is what is left when the self is gone. But the self is simply liberation arising as the self. Liberation is what is happening while you search
for liberation. Inside, you already know this. 
Being Awake and Being Asleep are the Same
—unless You are Asleep
When liberation is seen, it is known that being awake in liberation is no different from being asleep. They are both seen simply as oneness, manifesting as sleep or awakeness. In liberation all the mysti­cation of enlightenment is stripped away and its absolute ordinariness is revealed. Mountains are seen simply as mountains.
But to the seeker who is still asleep, and in their sleep is searching restlessly for an end to the sense of separation, there appears to be a chasm between that state and liberation. Liberation seems like a marvellous prize to be attained, promising blissful feelings, freedom from pain and suffering, an end to all problems, perhaps magical powers and of course the jealous admiration of your friends. This is why the search for liberation can be so desperate and the question “Will I get it?” so powerful.
All that prevents the seeing of liberation is the thought “I am not liberated”. So some say that what you must do to see liberation is to drop this thought. But there is no one who can choose to do this. The thought that this is not liberation, which is the same as the thought “I am separate” or “I am searching”, continues until it drops away. The apparent self can do nothing to discover that it is itself an illusion—an appearance cannot discover reality.
Liberation is seen either while the body-mind is still functioning or at the death of the body-mind and it does not matter which, except in the story. “At death there is only liberation. It is just more chic to see liberation when you are alive.”
In liberation it is seen that there never was any­thing to seek. What you seek has always been with you, what you are has always been what you are. When this is seen all searching ends.
I Hope You Die Soon
Once upon a time I was a busy seeker, meditating sincerely, being careful with my karma, receiv­ing shaktipat, having my chakras opened and cleansed by blessed gurus, thinking I was going somewhere.
Then catastrophe struck. I met Tony Parsons. And that was the end of what I thought had been my life. Tony, who hugged me at the end of one of his meetings and said to me “I hope you die soon.” Tony, to whom I feel the most profound gratitude, even though there is no one.
There is no more appropriate way to end this. Let me simply pass on the blessing I was given and say to you “I hope you die soon.” 

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